862R.014/7–2646: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in the Union of South Africa (Holcomb)


149. Please discuss informally with External Affairs Office following US attitude re annexation South West Africa. An Aide-mémoire3 in sense of this telegram is being left with South African Minister here.

US appreciates Union’s desire, in accordance declaration made London session General Assembly, submit matter to GA “for judgment”.4 Also appreciates willingness (urtel 121, July 26) postpone discussion of substance this year when trusteeship agreements affecting other mandates will, we hope, be consummated. The US has special interest in disposition of South West Africa because of its position as one of remaining effective Principal Allied and Associated Powers to whom Germany renounced all her rights and titles over her overseas possessions. US would not wish keep South West Africa future uncertain over too long period and hopes in interest of South West Africa and of whole UN trusteeship system that decision re status of territory might be reached at 1947 session of GA.5

We believe, as matter of principle, that final determination of permanent status of any mandated or trust territory, whether this status is proposed as annexation, independence or some other form of self-government, should be in interests of inhabitants and in accordance with their freely expressed wishes, and with approval of GA which would have to satisfy itself on these points. While US of course has no doubt of Union’s good faith we believe that determination of desire of inhabitants of any mandated or trust territory re their future status and decision as to their welfare must be made as matter of principle by competent UN organ on basis of objective and impartial inquiry of its own.

Accordingly, we would welcome and strongly support at GA meeting beginning October 23 a proposal by General Smuts, who has already made notable contribution to mandates idea and whose contributions to preamble and other parts of UN Charter are well remembered, that a UN commission be established for purpose of visiting South West Africa, and, on basis estimate of desires of inhabitants and of their best interests, formulating recommendations to 1947 session of [Page 123]GA as to whether mandate should be annexed or placed under trusteeship. We would, of course, abide by GA decision and not insist on any special voice by reason of our position as one of Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

The commission might include representatives of US, UK and France as remaining effective Principal Allied and Associated Powers and perhaps four other Members of UN selected by GA. This question would of course have to be decided by GA.

In event such commission should recommend trusteeship Union would be in position, of course, to propose terms which would fully protect its interests. In view of apparent South African misunderstanding of UN trusteeship system (Legs 982, July 12, pp. 14–156) it would be useful to point out that Union, as sole administering authority, would obtain all practical advantages of assimilation. For example, terms could include following provisions: (1) continued administration of South West Africa as integral part of Union (2) Union’s maintenance of bases and use of military forces and facilities in the territory (3) self-government instead of independence as goal (4) representation in Union Parliament (5) customs union and (6) control of immigration.

We hope only procedural question of establishing commission will be discussed at forthcoming session GA. During interval between 1946 and 1947 sessions GA terms of present mandate would apply as announced by Union at final League Assembly.

Sent Pretoria 149; rptd London 6795, and Paris 5048.

  1. Not printed.
  2. For declarations, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, First Part, Fourth Committee, p. 10.
  3. For documentation regarding U.S. policy concerning the termination of the mandate system and the establishment of a trusteeship system under the United Nations Charter, see volume i .
  4. Not printed.